Tuesday, November 1, 2005

10-28 to 11-1-2005, Hi Mountain Lookout

Greetings all,
Just a few notes on my most recent visit to the Lookout. I made it up late Friday and stayed through Tuesday evening. It was typical Hi Mountain weather, ranging from cold and 30+mph winds, to hot and still, to dripping fog, and everything in between. Had signals for several Pinnacles birds throughout my stay, and a few Ventana birds on Halloween. With all the birds at Pinnacles now, seems like we should almost always have a bird or 2 to track from the Lookout. Other bird activity was relatively low, with just the local red-tails, band-taileds, juncos, titmice, Anna’s, TVs, ravens, a few lesser goldies, and one marvelous fly-by from a peregrine. Also had 2 common poorwills on the road by the gate one evening.
There were quite a few human visitors on Saturday and Sunday, mostly on horseback. Seems like the Central Coast Longriders are getting some use out of their investment in our gutters and cistern. On Saturday I was joined by a Search and Rescue team from SLO who were doing some orienteering practice http://www.condorlookout.org/archives/photos/2005/slo_search_rescue.jpg Their crew leader hadn’t been in the Lookout for over 20 years, and he vividly remembered seeing the fire finder in the middle of the upstairs cab!
On Tuesday morning I thought I’d be a hero by calling in a small fire south east of Lopez and Sausolito Ridge. I called it in to USFS and they explained that it was a CDF prescribed burn in Phoenix Canyon.
http://www.condorlookout.org/archives/photos/2005/PhoenixCn_fire.jpg The dispatcher was very thankful for the call, though. It was wild to watch how fast this fire grew, from a little plume of smoke to giant columns of smoke and visible flames in under 30 min.

On my way down the hill, about 1/2 mile below the campground on, I encountered this juvenile bocat trying to ambush a covey of CA quail http://www.condorlookout.org/archives/photos/2005/bobcat1.jpg
http://www.condorlookout.org/archives/photos/2005/bobcat2.jpg This guy was tiny, not much bigger than a large house cat. I was surprised to see him hunting all alone, maybe mom was hiding somewhere nearby.

I’ll be back up to the lookout this Saturday and Sunday, so drop by and say

-Paul Andreano

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Open House '05

Howdy all,
Thanks to everyone who made it up the mountain for our 4th annual Open House, our biggest yet. Those of us who braved the weather had a terriffic time. Special thanks to Sandy Wilbur, Jan Hamber, Steve Schubert, the Hopper Interns, and the rest of the hearty souls who stayed for the evening program. We are all very lucky to have such a unique spot and so many smart, interesting, and dedicated folks to share it with.

Best to all, hope to see you next year!
There are a few photos up on the site at:

Thanks to Nick and Steve for their photo contributions. Please send any photos you might want
to contribute to our site to:

-Paul Andreano

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Life History of AC2 by Jan Hamber, 2005

Now that AC2 is free, I thought that you all might enjoy reading about AC2 and why this formerly free flying wild bird is so important to the recovery of the species.

First of all, there were only ten formerly free flying wild condors in captivity in 1987 of which AC2 was one.

AC2 and his mate AC3 were first seen on Jan. 9, 1976 by Dick Smith and Jan Hamber as they soared along the escarpment of West Big Pine in the Santa Barbara back country. (There is an assumption that AC2 is the same bird throughout this history. AC3 was identified by Noel Snyder as being the same female that nested at Indian Creek in 1972. He determined this by examining the egg shells that came from the various nestings in Santa Barbara county during the period 1972 - 1985.

The pair was found nesting on the escarpment, successfully fledging a chick in 1976. The fate of that chick is unknown.

In 1977, the pair nested in the same cave. Again, the chick successfully fledged that year. Again the fate of the chick is unknown. The only clue we have is that AC4 and UN1 were identified as possibly being the offspring of the Santa Barbara pair through genetic study. The stud book lists UN1’s possible birthday as 1976 and AC4’s about 1980. This last date is too late as all nestings were monitored from 1980 on through 1985 so we know the fate of each egg.

In 1978 and 1979, the Museum funded only enough time and dollars for a one day per month trip into the back country. The pair was always seen but the nesting sites, if any, were not found during those 2 years. With the founding of the Condor Research Center in 1980,more resources were available for locating nest sites and monitoring them every day once they were found. Many days were spent in the field by a combination of cooperating agencies, volunteers and a few paid biologists.

The following is a catalog of the nestings of AC2 and AC3 from 1980 through 1985:

1980 - AC2/AC3 nested in Big Pine Canyon on the north side of the escarpment. The egg hatched but the chick died of stress during a measuring and weighing trip on June 30, 1980. This death put a stop to a newly given permit to trap condors for radio telemetry. The permit was not reinstated until 2 years later.

1981 - AC2/AC3 again nested on the West Big Pine escarpment in the same cave used in 1976 & 1977. This nest was watched every day. When the normal hatching date was well past, the CRC team climbed up to the nest and determined that the egg had failed and the chick died, either at or during, hatching.

1982 - AC2/AC3 nested in Don Victor Valley. more than 8 miles away from what we thought was their core area at West Big Pine. Again a constant nest watch was instituted from Mid-April, when the nest site was finally discovered, until the end of Oct. This chick fledged successfully and survived until Thanksgiving time, Nov. 1983. The chick, known as Bosley, was killed by cyanide found in an M-44 “coyote getter”. The event changed the way the predator control arm of the USFWS placed out M-44s 0R in condor country. They now were ordered to place only one, not 2 M-44s, in a set.

1983 - An important nesting took place this year when AC2/AC3, with AC2 now carrying a radio and AC3 with distinctive notches in several feathers of her wing, nested back at the old 1972 Indian Creek nest site. This egg was taken for the captive breeding program, hatched and was a female named Almiyi. Because observers were out in the field constantly, we noted the pair driving Bosley away from the nest site. Bosley had fledged early Sept. and thus came from an egg laid early in the season. This proved once and for all that condors could, contrary to Koford’s thesis, lay eggs in successive years even though the chick from the previous year survived. So the reproductive rate of condors was increased by this new knowledge. Formerly (and still quoted call the time) is the statement that condors lay one egg every other year. Now we knew that it was possible for condors to lay 2 eggs in 3 years with a surviving fledgling. The 1983 egg was laid late in April.

1984 - 2 nestings by AC2/AC3 in 1984. The first egg was removed from Mono Narrows on Feb. 12, 1984 and taken to San Diego Zoo. The egg hatched and became a chick was named Ojai. The second nest was situated on Madulce Peak. The egg was taken on Mar. 18, 1984 to the Zoo. The egg hatched. The chick was named Yosemite but it died a few days later from a bacterial infection.

1985 - 3 nestings by AC2/AC3 in 1985. The first egg came Feb. 14, 1985 from a different cave on the Madulce cliffs. This egg hatched. The chick was named Kaweah, the only male produced by this pair. The second egg was laid back at the West Big Pine Nest site on Mar. 18, 1985. This egg failed to develop properly and thus no chick survived from this nesting. If you watch the Audubon film narrated by Robert Redford called “Condor” you will see the E-Team do an egg pickup. The last nesting of this pair occurred in Bluff Canyon on Big Pine Mt. on April 15. The egg was incubated by the pair until a concern for the egg’s safety (ravens were cruising too close to the nest and ravens were a known predator of condor eggs) brought about a nest climb where the fertile egg was taken to the zoo and replaced with a dummy egg to keep the pair close to the nest. On June 17, 1985 the dummy egg was taken, thus releasing the pair from incubating duties. This egg hatched and the female chick was named Malibu. In all, 9 eggs were laid and 4 chicks hatched for the captive breeding project from this pair.

1985/6 - In mid December 1985, biologists noted that AC3 was remaining at Bittercreek (then Hudson Ranch) while AC2 returned to the roost areas in Santa Barbara Co. A constant watch was set up to monitor the AC3’s behavior. It became evident that she was very ill. After several attempts, she was run down, captured and taken to San Diego Zoo where she was found to be suffering from severe lead poisoning. Despite a major effort by zoo personnel, AC3 died on Jan. 18, 1986. This was the end of the five original nesting pairs found by the biologists of the CRC. AC3’s death also ended the discussion about whether to trap all remaining condors for captive breeding or to leave a few wild birds out to be mentors to released captive bred condors.

AC3’s death also ended the discussion about whether to trap all remaining condors for captive breeding or to leave a few wild birds out to be mentors to released captive bred condors. The order went out to trap all remaining condors and any hope for a surviving wild population vanished. AC2 was captured in December 1986 on Hudson Ranch. By the time all the birds were taken into captivity, we had learned that the nesting area for AC2/AC3 covered about 64 square miles of the Sisquoc, Santa Cruz, Mono and Indian watersheds. Access to the area was either by the Big Pine Administrative Road or by way of the Pie Canyon Jeepway through Potrero Seco. Thus the pair could fly from a nest site on West Big Pine to Don Victor Valley in about 20 minutes and it would take a single observer about 6 to 7 hours to cover the same ground.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

MCAS in Audubopn Magazine

Howdy folks,
The current issue of Audubon Magazine features this article on the MCAS and Hi Mountain Lookout.I pasted the text below, or you can follow this link to the story…..
Chapter Spotlight
On the Lookout
It was on an early spring day last year that Steve
Schubert of the Morro Coast Audubon Society set off
with colleagues and family members into central
California’s Santa Lucia Wilderness Area. Clearing the
trail of brush and poison oak as they went along, they
made their way past a pair of nesting prairie falcons
into Hi Valley, then up to an observation point to
view a known peregrine aerie in the cliffs across an
intervening canyon. Schubert scanned the cliffs with
his binoculars. “I found myself saying, ‘Oh, my God,
there is a condor in a cave!’ ” he recalled. The bird,
Condor B168—identified by the numbers on its wing tag
and by telephoto lens and videotaping—is an
eight-year-old male that had been released by the
Ventana Wilderness Society.
The history of Morro Coast Audubon, chartered in 1967,
is spiced with tales of service and adventure.
Schubert (above), an environmental educator who joined
the chapter more than 30 years ago, when he was a
biology major in college, is a past chapter president.
He and Kevin Cooper of the U.S. Forest Service are
cofounders of the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project,
which now involves several agencies and institutions
in tracking the wide-ranging condors. Here, in the
Santa Lucia wilderness, the chapter is repeating its
pioneering work in identifying vital bird habitat and
helping reestablish endangered species.
The best known of Morro Coast Audubon’s projects is
its long-running peregrine nest watch. By the 1960s
the falcons’ population had crashed in the United
States, their eggshells thinned by DDT residues.
Biologists then knew of only two nesting pairs on the
California coast, one of them in a pothole cave on
Morro Rock, an eroded volcanic neck emerging from the
sea off the small city of Morro Bay, about 200 miles
up the coast from Los Angeles.
In 1967 chapter volunteers began monitoring the nest
around the clock. The nest guards returned, along with
the falcons, year after year, resulting in much
behavioral data and the occasional arrest of poachers
scaling the rock with climbing equipment. For a time
during the late 1970s and early 1980s the California
Department of Fish and Game paid for a full-time
warden. But as nest failures threatened the continuing
existence of the aerie, chapter volunteers cooperated
with the Peregrine Fund in various projects to
stimulate peregrine reproduction on the rock,
including the placement of captive-bred chicks in the
nest. Falcons that had fledged at Morro Rock spread
across California, helping to rebuild the state’s
once-decimated population, now estimated at more than
250 breeding pairs.
“The falcon pair at Morro Rock successfully hatched,
reared, and fledged two young in 1993, the first
nesting attempt there without human intervention in 16
years,” Schubert says proudly. “Last year there were
two active aeries on the rock. Each fledged
young—noteworthy because in California peregrines
don’t usually tolerate another peregrine nesting pair
— By Frank Graham Jr.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Lookout News

Hi all
Over this past weekend, Julie, Emily and I went to visit the condors and condor crew up in Ventana. We had an incredible time! First of all… Big thanks to Jim, who spent three days with us, showing us everything, Jess, Sayre, and James. You all were awesome! I look forward to working with you all
again some time! Jim took us out along the coast to track some birds. We got to see some condors feeding at one of the feed sites on a hill and saw bird #164 at one of the coves. Later in the day, we drove out to the base camp in the Ventana backcountry to stay two nights. The backcountry was absolutely gorgeous! We saw bobcat run along the road and some incredible views of the coastline. Our time at base camp was filled with some work and a whole lot of fun. Yes, the work was fun! Jim let us help take… um, condor food… down to a feeding site. More fun than it sounds, really. We also helped paint the base camp cabin in leafy camoflauge. Unfortunatley, there were no birds around the cabin, but we had a great time anyway!

We came back from our Big Sur excursion on Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning, Julie and I were at the lookout bright and early. It was surprisingly cool and cloudy, with a little bit of rain! Julie and I tracked several Ventana birds that had been visiting Hopper as they moved north. It was quite exciting to get some strong 360 degree signals (but no visuals) from some of the birds.
Good times all around this week! Have a great one everybody!
~Jamie Miller
Hi Mountain Intern


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Big Birds and Little Birds

Since our lookout carries an avian theme it’s not suprising their are 3 hummingbird feeders stocked with daily fresh sugar water. The result is 25 to 30 Anna’s Allen’s and Rufous Hummers hanging out at
the lookout,with 4-6 at a time at the feeders. A pecking order based on age and bravado determines the right to feed. While tracking a condor last week ( visiting from Big Sur) the juvenile hummingbirds
would sit on my telemetry antenae while I scan the horizon with it and wait their turn for the feeders. The whole scene is a rather bizarre way to sum up the incredible diversity in birds. I wonder how many
hummingbirds could sit on the back of a conder and hitch a free migration ride. They might need it when all of the devoted Cal Poly interns go back to school. Speaking of courage, the California
Thrasher requires a very special chaparral habitat, which could threaten its poulations as habitat shrinks. Every week I observe the Thrasher’s quest to visit our bird seed feeder (he’s almost their !
and its time for him to learn to adapt, his latest issues were with a Mourning Dove and a half grown bunny ! See you next week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lookout News

Hi all,
Julie and I had a good three days up at the Lookout! Although we missed Greg since he switched shifts! The weather was nice, about 85 degrees and breezy all weekend long. On Sunday, we took a day off from field work to do a full day of telemetry, and we ended up getting around 25 visitors! There were a couple caravans of about 8-10 people and their dogs that were out for a Sunday drive from Lopez. It was nice talking with everyone. They all seemed very interested in the condors and the work we do at the lookout. We had several visitors on Monday and Tuesday, as well, though not nearly as many as on Sunday.

In wildlife news, we had three Purple Martins fly by the lookout all three days we were there. The California Thrashers are coming back around. I haven’t seen them since early June. There are always at least 8 or 10 Band-tailed Pigeons and a flock of Anna’s hummingbirds at the feeders. Two Allen’s
hummingbirds occaisionally swoop in and chase off all the Anna’s from the feeders, then fly off. It makes for great evening entertainment! We even got a fly-by from a Peregrine Falcon! Alas, no condor sightings…

On Sunday night, Julie set up a motion sensor video camera and scent station downhill from the Lookout. She got some great footage of a gray fox rubbing its face all over the sticks we had covered with the scent oils! I’ve been setting a few Sherman live-traps around the lookout lately, to see what small mammals are running around at night. Over the last two weeks I’ve caught several pocket mice (Chaetodipus californicus), a couple deermice (Peromyscus maniculatus), and a Narrow-faced Kangaroo rat (Dipodomys venustus)! At sunset every night a female mule deer and her two fawns graze along the roadside or on top of Cypress hill. Hi Mountain never ceases to amaze me with its diversity of wildlife and gorgeous sunsets!
Well, until next time… Have a great week everyone!
~Jamie Miller
Hi Mountain Intern


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

July 17-19

Hello Everyone,
This week was just as exciting as the last. Aside from receiving
signals on multiple birds this weekend, we also trapped for mammals
and had a wonderful time. The weather just keeps getting hotter and
hotter. We have to fill the birdbath up almost three times a day.
There is a California Towhee who is very ritualistic about his evening
bath. The reptiles have been very active in the heat and a couple of
Whiptails make their daily rounds around the lookout. They seem to be
doing circles around us. The baby finches on the corner of the
lookout should be fledging any day now. I always look forward to
their first flight. They usually just make it to the large coffee
berry bush and jump around in there for a while before venturing any
further. Summer is definitely now in full swing. Still hope to see
some of you up there this summer. Until then enjoy your summer,
Julie Messer

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hi Mtn. rodent live-trapping research

Hi all,
Dr. Larisa Vredevoe, professor in the Cal Poly Bio. Sci. Dept., and her
students are conducting research using Hi Mountain Lookout as a field
laboratory station. This past weekend 8 rodents were live-trapped- an
unepected low capture rate from the 64 live traps set out the night
before- and processed at the lookout ‘laboratory’ for a study on the
central coast to determine the prevalance of rodent populations as
resevoir hosts for the Lyme disease bacteria (genus Borrelia).
Following are selected excerpts of an abstract, introduction and some of
the methodology from Dr. Vredevoe’s previous technical publication from
a similar research project. Hi Mountain may be added as another study
site to this research project depending on whether or not the Borrelia
bacteria are isolated from the rodents captured up there.
The ongoing condor radio tracking efforts at the lookout, Cal Poly
student field research projects, and this rodent/ Lyme disease study are
examples of how the Hi Mountain Lookout Project continues to function
importantly as a biological field research station.
Steve Schubert
PS- To view the photos I took of the rodents being processed at Hi Mtn.
Lookout and then being released, go to the yahoo photo album link. I
find it works best to click on and enlarge the first thumbnail photo and
then click the ‘view slideshow’ function.
Excerpts from published article:
Detection and Characterization of Borrelia bissettii in Rodents from the
Central California Coast
Department of Biological Sciences, California Polytechnic State
University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
J. Med. Entomol. 41(4): 736Ð745 (2004)
ABSTRACT This is the first report of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in
rodents from San Luis Obispo county, with most isolates obtained from a
previously unreported host, Neotoma lepida Thomas.
B. burgdorferi sensu lato was identified in seven rodent species,
including the California vole, Microtus californicus Peale; dusky-footed
woodrat, Neotoma fuscipes Baird; desert woodrat, Neotoma lepida Thomas;
brush mouse, Peromyscus boylii Baird; California mouse, Peromyscus
californicus Gambel; deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus Wagner; and
western harvest mouse, Reithrodontomys megalotis Baird.
Ear punch biopsies were cultured in BSK-H medium from 179 rodents
trapped at six different study sites. Overall, prevalence of rodent
infection was 44/179 (24.6%), with 34 of these isolates from
N. lepida. Spirochete isolates were obtained from rodents at all
studysites, indicating widespread prevalence of B. burgdorferi sensu
lato across rodent species and habitats. Nucleotide sequences for 14 of
these isolates have been submitted to GenBank. Isolates from three N.
lepida and one P. boylii had identical flagellin gene sequences, and
phylogenetic analysis placed these spirochetes in B. burgdorferi sensu
lato group DN127, now known as B. bissettii Postic, Marti Ras, Lane,
Hendson &
Baranton. Additional sequencing of the intergenic spacer regions between
the 5S and 23S ribosomal genes was performed on three of these isolates.
Phylogenetic analysis separated these isolates into two
clusters that grouped with Colorado or California isolates. The role of
B. bissettii and related species other than B. burgdorferi sensu stricto
Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner as human pathogens in the
United States warrants further investigation.
KEY WORDS Lyme disease, Borrelia bissettii, Borrelia burgdorferi,
Ixodes, rodent
OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS, northern California has been recognized as a
rapidly developing focus of several
tick-transmitted bacteria, particularly the Lyme disease spirochete,
Borrelia burgdorferi, and the rickettsial
agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis,
Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Dumler et al. 2001); foci are predominantly
in several northwestern counties of the state (Burgdorfer et al. 1985,
Clover and Lane
1995, Fritz et al. 1997, Foleyet al. 1999, Kramer et al. 1999, Lane et
al. 2001, Holden et al. 2003). The situation
in other regions of California, representing a tremendous diversity of
ecosystems, remains poorly understood. In particular, an increasingly
complex picture of B. burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) ecology
throughout the United States has emerged as substantial genetic
heterogeneity among California and other North American isolates from
diverse tick and mammalian reservoir hosts continues to be recognized
(Mathiesen et al. 1997, Postic et al. 1998, Lin et al. 2002). In San
Luis Obispo Countyand other areas of the central California coast, the
B. burgdorferi s.l. genospecies diversity and enzootic maintenance of
these agents have remained largely unstudied.
Eleven Borrelia genospecies have been described within the B.
burgdorferi s.l. complex. In the United States, three of these
genospecies have been identified,
including Borrelia andersonii (Assous et al. 1994, Postic et al. 1994,
Marconi et al. 1995), Borrelia bissettii (Assous et al. 1994, Postic et
al. 1994, Postic et al. 1998), and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.)
Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner (Baranton et al. 1992).
Only B. burgdorferi s.s. seems responsible for classic human Lyme
disease in the United States. In Northern California, nidicolous ticks,
primarily Ixodes spinipalpis Hadwen & Nuttall (I. neotomae; Norris et
1997a), transmit B. burgdorferi s.s. between rodent reservoir hosts such
as dusky-footed wood rats, Neotoma fuscipes Baird, whereas western
blacklegged ticks, Ixodes pacificus Cooley& Kohls, may transmit
the organism from rodents to humans (Brown and Lane 1992). At least one
other species of Borrelia in this group also exists in California. B.
burgdorferi s.l.
group DN127 was redescribed as B. bissettii sp. nov. based on
differences in OspA and OspB proteins (Bissett
and Hill 1987, Postic et al. 1998). B. bissettii was first described
from I. pacificus in California but has
subsequentlybeen found in other parts of the United States and Europe.
Experimentally confirmed tick vectors of B. bissettii include I.
spinipalpis and I. pacificus in the western United States (Burkot et al.
2000, Eisen et al. 2003) and I. scapularis in the eastern United States
for B. burgdorferi strain MI-6 (Sanders and Oliver 1995), which was
later recharacterized as B. bissettii (Lin et al. 2001). The
pathogenicity of B. bissettii to humans in the United States is not
known, although European strains have been isolated from humans
displaying clinical symptoms associated with Lyme borreliosis (Picken et
al. 1996, Strle et al. 1997).
In this study, we investigated the ecology and genetic heterogeneity of
B. burgdorferi s.l. on the central California coast compared with other
parts of California and the United States. Here, we provide evidence for
the previously undocumented widespread prevalence of B. burgdorferi s.l.
among San Luis Obispo county rodent populations from a variety of
Materials and Methods
Study Sites. To evaluate the presence of B. burgdorferi s.l. in San Luis
Obispo between August 2001 and February2003, we selected six study sites
a variety of habitats with diverse rodent populations. San Luis Obispo
is16 km from the ocean on the central California coast, midway between
San Francisco and Los Angeles. We selected study sites
with moderate-to-heavy human use to later assess human risk of contact
with any discovered tick-borne agents. Two study sites were located in
Poly Canyon,
on the northeastern edge of the California Polytechnic State University
campus. Natural vegetation in this region includes chaparral, coastal
scrub, grassland,
coastal live oak woodland, and riparian woodland. The hillsides consist
of rocky
outcrops, coastal and yucca scrub, chaparral, and coastal live oak
woodland,with grassland dominating the rolling hills. The lower Poly
Canyon study site included two distinct habitats in
which traps were set, riparian woodland with a stream running through
the site and yucca scrub on a rocky slope. Traps were set at the upper
Poly Canyon site in
both live oak woodland and a mixed habitat containing both coastal and
yucca scrub. The third study site was
located at Pennington Creek Biological Preserve, 81 ha of land located
13km northwest of the Cal Poly campus. Vegetation at this site was
similar to that of lower Poly Canyon but was less disturbed by human
activity. Montana de Oro state park is located near Los Osos, 19 km
southwest of San Luis Obispo. Vegetation at the study site included
coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and riparian woodland communities, but
traps were placed almost exclusivelyin riparian
woodland. Cerro San Luis, with an elevation of 394 m, is located in the
center of San Luis Obispo. The study
site was located at the base of the mountain in a habitat predominated
by prickly pear cacti and coastal scrub. The sixth study site was Laguna
Lake park, located at the eastern end of the Los Osos valley on the edge
of San Luis Obispo. Natural vegetation
communities at this site include freshwater marsh, riparian woodland,
serpentine springs, and several
types of grassland. Traps were placed exclusively in the serpentine
grassland habitat at this site.
Rodent Trapping and Sample Collection. We identified several homogeneous
vegetation communities within each study site to set trapping grids. Two
or three 4 by 4 trapping grids were set at each site, with two traps
placed at each station. Stations were spaced 10 m apart, with a total of
64 Ð96 traps set per trapping night. Rodents were live-trapped in
Sherman XLK traps (Tallahassee, FL) baited with rolled oats over two
trapping nights in August, October, and November
2001; January, April, and November 2002; and February 2003. Captured
rodents were identified (Jameson and Peters 1988), weighed, and sedated
an i.p. injection of ketamine/valium (30 mg/kg:5 mg/kg). After sedation,
rodents were sexed, ear-tagged with a uniquely numbered tag (National
Band and
Tag, Newport, KY) to facilitate recapture identification,attached ticks
removed and retained for identification, and two 2Ð4-mm ear biopsies
were taken
from the outer margin of each ear with a sterile scalpel. One ear sample
from each rodent was frozen at20C in 1.5-ml centrifuge tubes. The second
ear sample was placed in sterile phosphate-buffered saline for several
hours until it was prepared for spirochete culture.
After recovery from anesthesia, all rodents were returned to their
capture station and released. Rodents
recaptured the following trapping night were immediately released at the
point of capture without resampling. Those animals recaptured during a
later trapping
date were resampled to gauge whether infection status might change over
the course of the study.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

July 10th, 11th and 12th

Hello Everyone,
Yet, another beautiful weekend at the Hi Mountain Lookout. This weekend was very exciting because we received signals from birds that we haven’t received yet this summer. It is always neat
to think that new birds are in the area. The weather this week was spectacular! For the first time
this summer the fog was lifted from the beach and we could see down to the Guadalupe dunes. With such fair weather we had some new visitors. We even encountered a conscientious hunter who supported non-lead bullets. It was wonderful to meet people who care about the cause.

This week we also had the opportunity to meet Hand Crew 7 down at Pozo Ranger Station. They are a great bunch of hard working boys who helped clear the overgrown trail down to Hi Valley so we
can Hike down there with ease. They were grateful to come back to a box of cookies we had waiting for them when they finished. A hawk has been frequenting the lookout recently and has Jamie, Greg, and I baffled. We have thought on different occasions that it is a juvenile Red Tail, a Rough Legged, or a Swainsons, the later two of which do not commonly occur in this area. We will have
to get a closer look. The past three days were some of the best yet at the lookout and we all look forward to more beautiful days of summer at the lookout. 

Hope to see some of you visit soon,
Julie Messer
Hi Mountain Intern

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

First Intern Shift News

Hello Everyone,
The summer field season is now well under way at Hi Mountain Lookout. Three interns started their first official shift this past weekend, and we had a wonderful time! On the first day, Greg and I hiked down to Hi Valley to do some point counts and find some study plots, while Julie and her sister Holly
did telemetry at the lookout. The Hi Valley hike was simply gorgeous! We saw an unidentified falcon (peregrine or prairie?), some White-breasted Nuthatches, a Western wood-pewee, and a Blue-gray gnatcatcher, among others. The hike back up to the Lookout was, of course, long and strenuous, but the following morning Greg (the rockstar!) hiked back down with Julie to do more point counts and some veg work. That day I did telemetry and only got signals for one Pinnacles bird. Despite the long days of field work and only a couple signals, we had a great time! I am looking forward to the rest of my summer at Hi Mountain!
A note on Lookout wildlife… The feeders and birdbath have attracted about 6 or 7 band-tailed pigeons, numerous scrub-jays, a pair of oak titmice and a family group of 5-7 Bewick’s Wrens. I also saw a Rock Wren on the road by the trail to the bathroom! I had never seen one before, but I’m not sure what else it could have been. Long slightly decurved bill, pale/buffy chest, light spotting on the back and a very light supercilliary. I think it may have been a juvenile since the coloration was subtle. Unfortunately, by the time I grabbed my camera to take a shot, the bird was gone.
A Peregrine Falcon soared by the Lookout while we were taking some signals. As it passed the Lookout, it went into a stoop (awesome!!!) and crashed into some scrub oak along Hi Valley trail. It stayed there for some time so it must have caught a fat, juicy quail for lunch! It was definitely the highlight of our day!
On the way home, Julie and I drove the AG side and stopped by a marsh to find some rails or sora. We found a Virginia rail (by almost stepping on it!) and saw a juvenile Bald Eagle fly overhead! Quite an exciting weekend!
Have a great week everyone!
~Jamie Miller
Hi Mountain Intern

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lookout Training News

Just a quick update from the Lookout crew. The Cal Poly interns and volunters spent the early part of the week training up at Hi Mountain. We learned everything from how to keep the Lookout running smoothly to how to collect our data. We even got a lesson in how difficult it can be to get from point A to point B when faced with a dense stand of brush! Some of us went on a late afternoon hike down toward Hi Valley and were suprised to turn around to see a mountain hike between us and our dinners. Going downhill sure is easier. Some of the crew even had an up close and personal encounter with a rattlesnake. After spending a few days at the Lookout with its breathtaking sunsets and sunrises, I think we are all excited to call the Lookout home for the summer.
Emily K.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Training at Hopper

Hi All,

All the new interns and volunteers just completed great telemetry training from the folks at Hopper. The fog was unbelievable and we couldn’t see five feet in front of us but we still had a great time.
Can’t wait to put all this new knowledge to work. I’d like to give special thanks to the people at Hopper for dedicating their time and effort. We really appreciate all their help. Next week we start working at Hi Mountain and hopefully we will get a fly by and see a familiar bird. 

Once again thanks to all,
Julie Messer
Hi Mt.Summer Intern

Monday, June 13, 2005

KSBY Interview

Hi all,
Anchorwoman Wendy Thies interviewed staff and volunteers today at Hi Mountain Lookout. The interview will air on KSBY TV news at 6:30pm this Thursday, June 16th, and repeat on the following Friday morning news broadcast. The Lookout Project interview is one of the ‘Nature Watch’ series, broadcast weekly.
Steve Schubert
Volunteer Coordinator, Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Summer '05 Field Season

Since the inception of the Hi Mountain Lookout Project 9 years ago,
Morro Coast Audubon Society has had a rewarding and successful
collaboration with several organizations and many hard working staff and
volunteers. The rehabilitation of an old abandoned fire lookout into a
functioning biological research station and interpretive visitor center
has been a source of great satisfaction and pride for all involved in
the project.
This upcoming 2005 summer field season marks our 4th season of field
operations and demonstrates the breadth of these collaborative efforts.
MCAS has funded the purchase of a heavy security gate and signage that
will be installed by the U.S. Forest Service, providing staff time and
labor. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s condor staff will be
providing our interns and volunteers onsite field training in radio
tracking, note taking, and condor nest watching at Hopper Mountain
National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County. The Ventana Wilderness
Society (VWS) near the Big Sur Coast continues to provide condor
movement information through GPS (global positioning systems) tracking,
with exact location data relayed to satellites in earth orbit by
transmitters attached to the wings of free-flying condors. Other VWS
condors equipped with radio transmitters are tracked from Hi Mountain
Lookout as they occasionally fly north and south through SLO CO on their
long flights from Big Sur country to Hopper Mountain refuge, and back
again. Hi Mountain Lookout staff also radio track condors released at
Pinnacles National Monument, in cooperation with the National Park
Service. One more example of our collaborative efforts: Dr. Francis
Villablanca through the Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly has
recently obtained funding to hire and supervise 5 student interns, who
will be working in shifts staffing Hi Mountain Lookout (along with our
volunteers) full-time this summer! The focus of this student internship
will be on conducting several biological research projects at Hi
Mountain, including California Condor radio tracking, studying
ecological community dynamics by surveying resident and nesting birds,
live-trapping small mammals, conducting vegetation sampling, and
analyzing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) information- in study
plots set up within chaparral, oak woodland and riparian habitats. All 5
of these college students will be speaking and giving power point talks
about their research methodologies and findings, presented to professors
and their student peers at Cal Poly, following their summer internship
experiences at Hi Mountain Lookout.
Learn more about the Lookout Project at www.condorlookout.org
Visit the lookout this summer, tour the facilities and visitor center,
and participate in condor radio tracking demonstrations.
New volunteers are encouraged to get involved. Please contact me in
advance to make arrangements for a visit.
Steve Schubert
MCAS Volunteer Coordinator,
Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lookout Visit

Hi all,
Today I drove a van field trip to Hi Mountain Lookout- with 11 participants- for a “Condor Country” class offered through Cuesta College Community Programs. Along Hi Mtn. Rd. we met up with the Pozo
Wildflower Weekend field trip led by Charlie Blair, President of the SLO chapter of the California Native Plant Society. After we looked over the vegetation growing on the serpentine outcrop along Hi Mtn. Rd., the wildflower group of 6 joined us at the lookout for lunch and discussion about the condor radio tracking project. In the afternoon we picked up a signal from one of the Pinnacles condors to the NW…that was the only condor radio signal we detected. Hopefully, a few new volunteers have been recruited for the project. Surprisingly, one of the participants in the wildflower field trip introduced herself as a past condor intern at Hopper Mountain N’tl Wildlife Refuge and this was her first visit to Hi Mtn.
The swallowtail butterflies are now up on the ridgeline in numbers, the deer flies are starting to bite, and this afternoon there was a flight of 1000’s of ladybird beetles all over the chaparral-covered ridgeline at Hi Mountain and swarming around the lookout- a constant movement of flying insects all about.
Compared to only one week ago, along Hi Mtn. Rd. there has been an ‘explosion’ of Mariposa lilies, Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia), Larkspurs, and Chinese Houses flowers.
Steve Schubert

Monday, May 9, 2005


Hi all,
On Saturday, May 7th a group of a dozen volunteers and staff put in a 9 hour workday at Hi Mountain Lookout. A number of maintenance, repair, and general cleaning tasks were completed and everyone enjoyed the opportunity to talk and socialize throughout the day, catching up on things. This upcoming weekend (May 14th) is the annual Pozo Wildflower Weekend field trip up Hi Mountain Rd. to the lookout, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, and I will also be bringing a field trip there through Cuesta College Community Programs.
Steve Schubert

Friday, May 6, 2005

Condor Sightings in SLO Co.

Hi all,
During the last ten days, 3 different observers with good descriptions have reported 2 condors flying together at the following locations: Santa Rosa Creek Rd. and Cypress Mountain Rd. intersection (12 miles east of Cambria), east Cuesta Ridge near the towers, and at Beartrap Mountain in the La Panza Range (historic condor nesting location). We will use the telonics to radio track condors at Hi Mountain Lookout this weekend, beginning a new field research season.
Steve Schubert

Sunday, January 23, 2005

2004 Year in Review

Hi all,
Here is a summary of the activities and accomplishments of the Hi
Mountain Lookout Project during 2004:
Planning session at Cal Poly- 8 staff and volunteers, revising and
updating the Volunteer User Manual (revisions were completed by end of
2004 and the handbook will be distributed to all volunteers).
Morro Bay Natural History Museum Condor Exhibit Open House (the VWS
condor exhibit in the auditorium was on display for several months). Hi
Mtn. Project volunteers and collaborators were recognized at the evening
8th Annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. ‘Condor Country’ van field
trip. USFWS Condor Recovery Program/Hi Mountain Project power point and
slide talk presentations.
Morro Bay Natural History Museum Monday morning “Mind Walk” lecture
series: Condor Recovery Program and Hi Mountain Lookout Project slide
talk by Steve Schubert
Work Weekend- 20 staff and volunteers. USFS contractor John Porter
conducted lookout safety improvements and lightning
protection/electrical grounding. MCAS funded the $2,700 labor and
materials costs.
Annual Huff’s Hole peregrine falcon nesting survey. A condor was found
perched at a cave entrance there on the cliffs! Note: One evening
several months later 8 condors roosted overnight on these cliffs.
Possible future nesting attempts here will be closely monitored.
Cal Poly Ornithology field trip to Hi Mtn., led by Dr. Villablanca
Cuesta College Community Programs “Condor Country” van field trip to the
lookout, led by Steve Schubert
VHF Ham Radio Contest and Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club Field Day campout
at the lookout
Hiring of summer interns Jeremy White, Amy Millan, and Jenn Yost.
Internship funded by USFS and Cal Poly Bio. Sci. Dept., supervised by
Kevin Cooper and Dr. Francis Villablanca
Workday at the lookout- 9 staff and volunteers
The three Hi Mtn.interns received field training and condor monitoring
experience at Hopper Mountain NWR, assisted by USFWS staff
Planning meeting at Cal Poly attended by Hi Mtn. staff and volunteers,
USFWS, USFS, VWS, and Pinnacles NM staff
3rd Annual Open House event and campout
~45 in attendance
Cal Poly Mammalogy field trip and campout at Hi Mtn., led by Dr.
Completion of storage shed construction and shelving, by Kevin Cooper
and Tom Murphey, USFS
Ongoing activities-
Website (www.condorlookout.org) management and improvements by Paul
Staffing of lookout by volunteers and training sessions for newly
recruited volunteers
Cal Poly senior project student research
Look for coverage of the Hi Mountain Lookout Project in an upcoming
issue of AUDUBON magazine and a KSBY TV interview (after the roads dry
up and accessibility to the lookout improves for the camera crew). The
lookout project has also been nominated for a San Luis Obispo County
environmental award, submitted by Dick Parker, MCAS President.
“Thank-you” to all who have contributed to our collaborative efforts!
Steve Schubert, Volunteer Coordinator